Saturday, 15 July 2006

An Overview of Land Use and Change Proximate to Wetlands and Its Management Implications around the Great Lakes.

Yamille Cirino, USEPA Great Lakes National Program Office, 77 West Jackson Blvd (G-17J), Chicago, IL 60604 and Karen Rodriguez, USEPA Great Lakes National Program Office (G17J), Chicago, IL 60604.

A wetland is an ecosystem that depends on constant or recurrent, shallow inundation or saturation at or near the surface of the substrate. The minimum essential characteristics of a wetland are recurrent, sustained inundation or saturation at or near the surface and the presence of physical, chemical, and biological features reflective of recurrent, sustained inundation or saturation. Wetlands provide habitats for many kinds of plants and animals. Wetlands play an essential role in sustaining a productive fishery, with many species of Great Lakes fish depending on coastal wetlands for successful reproduction. EPA has a number of programs for wetland conservation, restoration, and monitoring. Under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act, the Corps issues permits that meet environmental standards (after allowing the public to comment).Wetlands and the wildlife that rely on them for habitat feel the brunt of unwise land-use practices. More than two-thirds of the natural Great Lakes wetlands have already been filled in or drained for agriculture, urban uses, shoreline development, recreation and resource extraction (such as peat mining). The loss of these lands poses special problems for hydrological processes and water quality because of the natural storage and cleansing functions of wetlands. Water-level fluctuations in the Great Lakes are of concern for a number of reasons; including the potential effects they may have on coastal developments, shipping, recreation, hydropower, and natural resources. Most previous attempts to address the effects of fluctuations on wetland resources used aerial photograph interpretation as the major assessment tool. Human activities cause wetland degradation and loss by changing water quality, quantity, and flow rates; increasing pollutant inputs; and changing species composition as a result of disturbance and the introduction of nonnative species.

Keywords: wetland, Clean Water Act, coastal development, Great Lakes.

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